The Trans-America Challenge 2012

7th May - 8th June 2012


Colorado Springs to Durango

MAY 16TH, 2012

Welcome to the big country. "The land of many uses".

We all felt sad to be leaving the Cheyenne Mountain resort with its lavish breakfast buffet and excellent coffee this morning, but the pull of the mountains proved too much to resist - and we have a schedule to keep to so we saddled up and headed up the trail. Up, being the operative word.

When we left the hotel the gps sat around 5000ft but within ten miles it had climbed to 6500ft. Over the next ten miles we'd still be climbing and by the time we'd stopped counting at twenty miles we were at 8500ft. In fact this would be about the lowest point we'd see until we reached the hotel in Durango. The long steady climb out of town cut through red sandstone, pine trees and past the snow covered Pikes Peak to our left. A full day was promised and soon we were into the first test, a sublime loop into the woods on well compacted red gravel. We even passed a monastery, “The protection of the Holy Virgin” but the Gods weren't smiling on us and the reason the gravel was in such good condition was that it was being graded. With such large earth moving equipment in the vicinity the organisers had no choice but to call a halt to the regularity although the crews did drive through, keen not to miss what was on offer.

On the way back down the hill we passed a llama farm and then a fox enjoying a middle of the road mid-morning snack, something small and furry that hadn't quite made it... The run along Route 50 to Salida a real drivers road with see through bends and well engineered cambers it closely followed the Arkansas River where we saw white water rafting, fishing and rock climbing on offer. All the while though, we were heading towards the snowy peaks that we could see dead ahead.

Through Swissvale and into Salida where we were intrigued to see a sign for www.webuyantlers.com. Take a look yourself, we have. From here it was up to Monarch Pass, through the beautiful San Isobel National Forest with snow sitting in the shadowy pockets and on past a less than beautiful quarry and mineworks. Monarch Pass is one of the highest points of the Rally at 11312ft and also saw us cross the Continental Divide which marks the watershed point of the Pacific, the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico. Passed the very tempting dirt road to 'old Monarchs Pass.

On the way to Black Sage Pass, the venue for today's second regularity, we saw that we truly were in the heart of Marlborough Country. It's big, it's wide and it's open and it's called "the land of many uses". It's so vast and empty it made Mongolia look busy! But we took note that building and sceptic tank permits were required in Sagauche County.

While on the subject of Real Estate we passed a lovely chalet ranch building for sale on the meandering road into Gunnison. Features included parking for several cars and access to miles of well graded gravel. For further details contact......

Through the Curecanti Park and along the shores of Blue Mesa Lake, where we noted that all motorised watercraft were subject to compulsory mussel inspection, we made our way to the third regularity section of the day. Like the first though this has to be cancelled. A rock fall made it passable only with care in a 4x4 so we diverted along the main road straight to Durango but this wasn't exactly dull as the road began to rise up once more to the Red Mountain Pass  at 11018ft.

On the way to it, the ‘Welcome to Ridgeway’ sign boasted that 'what we lack in wineries we make up for in whiners'. Claiming to be the gateway to the San Juans it was established 1891. This is where the real climb begins and we caught up with Martin and Olivia Hunt’s Bentley just as it began to 'relieve' itself from the expansion tank. Nothing to worry about, Martin assured us, it was just the heat and he put in a spirited performance hauling the Peking to Paris veteran through hairpin after hairpin with Olivia expertly hanging out as a counterbalance.

So we really were on the home run to Durango now, only one more pass to storm, the 10910ft Molas Pass, down past the miners shrine on the highway adopted by, among others, the Silverton Gunfighters Association and the Durango Photography Club. They'd both find a lot to shoot in a place like this.

We hear of a few problems from along the road today. The red Jag' of Richard Worts and Nicola Shackleton needed two new fuel pumps but made it to the hotel in good time while the blue convertible Mustang of Hans Middleberg and Jurgen Grolman has suffered with what they describe as an overheating problem. A head gasket was suspected for which a can of K-Seal has been prescribed. A little more investigation may be required.

Winners and losers from the day; a missed PC for the Ian Brawn & Jan Smith Porsche 911 saw them drop from 15th to 22nd place while car 23, the Datsun 240Z of Roy Stephenson and Peter Robinson has fallen from 2nd to 9th place following a slight mishap on the slippery gravel that added a couple of minutes to their total.

After a day like this it's safe to say that Colorado has left a big impression on us all.


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